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  Into the Little Hill  Niema at 10:26 on 20 February 2009

I went into this concert after reading a wave of glowing publicity surrounding the Benjamin piece. A masterpiece one critic called it. The Birtwistle was good fun, a little low on music (mostly spoken words), but very theatrical and dramatic. I was very disappointed by the Benjamin however, it's always hard to separate a production from a piece - and perhaps this is actually a concert piece, but as a piece of drama it completely failed to convince me. Musically there were a lot of delicious sounds from the orchestra, though I am alone in finding a certain monochrome effect in Benjamin's recent music? My reaction to it reminds of that when I listen to Boulez - after a while the harmony and colour all starts to sound the same, and the atmosphere becomes oppressive. Benjamin does use slightly more variety than Boulez- the end of this piece has a certain tonality to it, but when combined with the instrumental colour, nothing is ever really allowed to blossom and bloom, it's all kept behind an ever-so-cleverly polished gauze.

As drama the idea of two singers who both narrate and act out roles completely failed I felt. I'm all for stylisation, particularly in opera, but this way of presenting a story just seemed totally undramatic. Stylisation inevitably distances the listener, but Benjamin to me seems to have taken that a step too far, I couldn't find an emotional way into this piece.

  Re: Into the Little Hill  Misuc at 14:06 on 03 March 2009

... "glowing publicity"... "a certain monochrome effect"... "ever-so-cleverly polished gauze"... I find your description vividly conveys the essence of Benjamin's unimaginative, self-important, pretentious, basically trivial posturing. "Benjamin does use slightly more variety than Boulez" you say: yes, but with infinitely less inventiveness, passion, musical understanding and seriousness of purpose.

  Re: Into the Little Hill  piargno at 05:05 on 04 March 2009

Wow! That's one of the harshest things I ever heard! Great stuff! I've actually never heard any Benjamin, but keep hearing stuff about Palimpsest I. I'll check it out one day just so I can agree with Misuc!

  Re: Into the Little Hill  MartinY at 15:06 on 08 March 2009

I see Radio Three has a program about George Benjamin today (Sunday 7th) at 17:00. There is also 5 hours of Ligeti as this week's composer! There is a program about Johnathon Wilcocks at 18:30, Xenakis at 19:00 on Tuesday, new music by Gwilym Simcock in the Chetham's concert on Wednesday at 19:00 and Ligeti's Violin Concerto on Friday at 19:00.

This is a very unusual amout of contemporary music for the BBC.......

  Re: Into the Little Hill  Misuc at 16:44 on 08 March 2009

Thanks. I'll have another listen. And yesterday I missed (as usual) the 'Hear & Now' programme on Christopher Fox, a fearful 'school of complexity' enfant terrible. So it seems they are somewhat favouring the 'modernists' this week.


we'll see what comes into their heads next week

  Re: Into the Little Hill  Team Gaughan at 08:43 on 09 March 2009

I heard the Radio 3 show about George Benjamins pieces yesterday. I found it interesting but agree with some of the above comments. What I did find interesting was him talking about 'Sudden Time' and then a performance of said work. I found it useful him discussing themes and ideas he used in this work- one that I do actually like. There are some fasinating ideas, 4 alto flutes, tablas and a expressive viola solo. Wonder what everyone elses opinions are.


I like Ligeti and noticed him as composer of the week, his music is wonderful yes but I find something lacking in it, Im not sure what. Wonderful sounds, clever, fasinating and beautiful but still lacking something for me at least.

  Re: Into the Little Hill  Misuc at 20:38 on 09 March 2009

I've got to apologise for my mean-spirited comments above. I was influenced by some very duff things he'd done, and by aspects of his personal behaviour which I had seen. As far as this broadcast was concerned.I have good and bad to say.

Firstly I must tell readers I didn't listen to it live, I recorded it and on listening back just now found that, just as I was starting to get really involved in 'Sudden Time'- close to the end, I think - the recording came to a sudden stop mid-bar.

Bad: I didn't catch the beginning of the programme, with his explanation of "Dance Figures", but from listening to the piece I didn't care for it -it sounded to me like an overcooked stodgy hotpot made out of the static bits of 'the Rite of Spring' with a soft doughy Berg-crust, and a dollop of Britten ketchup on top: in other words he's striving after a post-Rite type of dance but when he tries to come out of his puddingy self- consciousness - introvertea expressionism - there's no physical 'elan', his dance-steps are trite and a bit vulgar.

Furthermore, you could skip to the middle of 'Sudden Time' and not notice that the piece had changed. He's somehow got stuck stylistically and harmonically in his pudding.

....And yet.....the way the 'Momente' persist or shift - are transformed, the sense of continuity and change, of foreground merging with background and something else emerging out of it, and, yes, the nice sonorities won me over. I even found the harmony convincing. I almost started to believe in his sincerity. I will have to listen to 'Sudden Time' again and to more pieces. Maybe I can still learn...